Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Illustrated Words

In a loose continuation of yesterday and the other day's Gertrude theme, the first of this little handful of books I'd like to talk about today is also by the divine Ms. Stein. To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays is a one of her lesser-known texts--an alphabet book as only she could conceive of such--illustrated with charming drawings by Giselle Potter and published by Yale University Press. Perhaps because of the sudden rash of interest in the expat Lost Generation here in San Francisco these days, I suddenly see this book cropping up everywhere. And it got me thinking.

Because another favorite author of mine, Donna Leon (most famous for her murder mysteries set in Venice, which I've mentioned before, and which are great, and which you should totally read if you haven't) has also recently come out with an illustrated book. Handel's Bestiary is a little volume about all the animals that appear in the lyrics of Handel's operas, delightfully illustrated by the painter Michael Sowa and published by the Atlantic Monthly Press.

I suppose this subject of books featuring illustrated texts was already on my mind anyway, because I have myself recently been working on one, with text from a third favorite author: Shakespeare's Love Sonnets, illustrated by the awesome Caitlin Keegan. Not sure if three books are enough to qualify as a full-fledged trend (though I'll admit I have a few others up my sleeves for the future, and of course there have been other awesome ones in recent years, probably most notably Maira Kalman's version of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style), but regardless, I do feel pleased that at least these three publishers have seen fit marrying two of my favorite things: words and pictures.

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